OECD Observer
Closing down

The websites www.oecdobserver.org and www.observateurocde.org are due to close shortly, end 2020 or early 2021. The plan is to move all individual articles and most other content that have been published on this website since it was launched in August 1999 to OECD iLibrary. We hope you continue to use the content via iLibrary.Enquiries to observer@oecd.org. Thank you very much to our millions of readers over the years for visiting this site and for your interest in OECD Observer; we hope what you found and read was informative, interesting and useful to you. Thank you to all our OECD and guest contributors, illustrators, photographers, cartoonists, crossword writers, editors, proofers, graphic designers, uploaders, advertisers and everyone who has helped this website pull in well over a million visitors  a year at its peak. And last but not least, our thanks to Pressflex, the webhost company, whose novel idea to host the OECD Observer as a separate entity to enable faster publishing and ring-fenced promotion on behalf of the organisation--even before blogs--was simply revolutionary in 1999. We wish Pressflex every success at the cutting edge of digital publishing. The OECD Observer, which was founded in 1962, will continue of course, and we will keep you posted on developments. Keep up at @oecd and on Facebook. Rory J.Clarke, Editor-in-Chief

Can Big Tech play fair? I Casper Klynge I OECD Podcasts

OECD Podcasts

How does the OECD help shape better policies for better lives? In just 15 minutes, our podcasts offer our listeners insightful discussions and thought-provoking debate with OECD experts and guests on the economic, social, environmental, governance and technological challenges of our time.*

An affordable roof over our heads? Anna Minton discusses

Is housing a basic human right? It should be. And yet, investment and speculation in property often get in the way of housing affordability. This is where governments can make a difference. Anna Minton’s message is that if there’s political will, there’s a way. Anna Minton is a writer, journalist and Reader in Architecture at University of East London. She has written two books, Ground Control and Big Capital: Who is London for?.

Erik Brynjolfsson on the disruptive power of machine learning

“We aren’t transforming technology into productivity the way we should be."
Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, discusses the impact of machine learning on our jobs and lives. What are policy makers doing – or not – to smooth the transition?

Jeremias Prassl on the gig economy

What’s so new about the gig economy, anyway?
Jeremias Prassl, author of Humans as a Service, says we’ve had “uberised” jobs in the past; that experience can come in handy when it comes to dealing with gig workers today.

The hidden underbelly of the digital economy–sociologist Antonio Casilli weighs in.

Machines are learning but who’s teaching them? You, me but also legions of microworkers all over the world. Antonio Casilli is associate professor in digital humanities at Télécom ParisTech and researcher at the Edgar Morin Centre of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences.

Seven billion heads are better than one: Geoff Mulgan on collective intelligence

The wisdom of crowds? Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts in the UK, discusses the crowdsourcing power behind platforms like Wikipedia and Google maps. And how well-designed collective intelligence can revolutionise healthcare, sustainable development and much, much more.

Erika Widegren on the need to re-imagine Europe

Ten years after the financial crisis, Erika Widegren talks about what Europe needs to do to avoid another meltdown.

Sea change: A talk with UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson

Our oceans absorb 30% of the CO2 caused by greenhouse gas emissions. And they take in 90% of the heat that's caused by the same emissions. But our oceans are getting tired. UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, talks to us about ocean biodiversity, coral reefs and acidification. And the miracle of intertidal marshes, seagrass beds, lagoons, and mangrove forests.

Global warming under 1.5 °C? Yale professor John Roemer says we can do it.

We have 12 years to make changes and keep the temperature rise under 1.5 °C. This was the message from the IPCC, which is the UN’s international scientific body on climate change. Economist John Roemer shares his blueprint on how to head off climate catastrophe. With Clara Young.

Understanding the past to plan for the future of work

Professor Robert Allen provides some historical context for the current upheavals in the world of work and discusses why adjusting to these changes may be more challenging than we think.

MIT’s Fiona Murray on women in tough tech

Encouraging women and girls to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is one thing, getting them to patent their innovations and take them from lab to market is another. Fiona Murray is the Associate Dean of Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Co-Director of MIT’s Initiative for Innovation. She talks about women getting in the CEO seat and revving up the innovation engine.

The town mouse vs the country mouse with OECD’s Joaquim Martins

After visiting his cousin in the city, Aesop’s country mouse concludes that “Poverty with security is better than plenty in the midst of fear and uncertainty”. Those who feel they have neither security nor sufficient means in places like Wales, Italy’s Mezzogiorno and France’s Diagonale du Vide beg to differ. Joaquim Oliveira Martins, deputy director of the OECD’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, says the answers to today’s populist angst lie in local strategies and coordination.

World Bank’s Penny Goldberg on Yellow Vests anger & global trade

World Bank chief economist Penny Goldberg discusses how global trade has exacerbated inequality between rural and urban areas, and what to do about it.

MythBusters alumnus Jamie Hyneman discusses the nuts & bolts of innovating

We talk a lot about the need to innovate, but how do schools encourage intuitive leaps and, ultimately, new inventions? Jamie Hyneman, formerly co-host of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, says students need hands-on experience. Like the kind you get in LUT University’s prototype lab in Finland, the Jamie Hyneman Center.

Retrofitting social security to new ways of working: OECD’s Monika Queisser

The days when people held a full-time job for most of their lives and accordingly received benefits are over. Nowadays, many of us are temps, self-employed, and artists. We work part-time, pick up gig work, take on zero-hour contracts. How do we reconcile social security like pensions, unemployment benefits, and medical insurance with these more fluid forms of work? We discuss this and ideas like Universal Basic Income with Monika Queisser, who is Head of Social Policy at the OECD. 

Ruby Wax says there's nothing funny about mental ill health

Mental ill health comes with a big pricetag. The OECD estimates the total cost of mental disorders in the EU to be more than 4% of GDP--over €600 billion. But no price can be put on the cost of mental illness for the person suffering from it. “It’s okay to not be okay,” is comedian and mental health activist Ruby Wax’s message. To the one in four people in the world who suffer from mental disorders at some time in their life (World Health Organization, 2018), these are words from someone who understands, and the first step to coping with the disease. 

Maeve Cohen on why traditional economics are broken and what needs to change

Our social world is incredibly nuanced and complex, says Maeve Cohen of Re-thinking Economics. It cannot be condensed into one economic model, we need to be holistic and humble, looking at different schools of thought and being prepared to acknowledge when we’re wrong.

On International Women's Day, OECD’s Gabriela Ramos says, “Yes, girls can.”

At age 15, 5% of boys in OECD countries want to work in information technology. And girls? 0.5%. With society digitalising fast and the current gender gap in science/technology/engineering/maths (STEM) widening, the future still looks to be a “man’s, man’s, man’s world”. But Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, is betting against James Brown. She urges girls to set their ambitions high and calls on policymakers to break down the policy barriers that are holding women back.

Economic slowdown? Chief Economist Laurence Boone looks ahead

OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone reflects on the risks facing the world economy and the need for international co-operation. 

Digitalisation: “The global tax rules are changing”–Pascal Saint-Amans, OECD tax chief

Everybody agrees that tech giants and all other businesses should pay their fair share of taxes where they create value. But is a digital tax the way to go? OECD tax chief Pascal Saint-Amans says no. The OECD has secured an agreement among 127 countries and jurisdictions to spearhead talks on changing the rules of the taxation game: shifting more taxing rights to market jurisdictions where goods and services—digital or not—are being consumed…away from the countries where multinational companies are headquartered. What’s at stake? Nothing short of changing fundamental tax rules to address the 21st century’s globalised and digitalising economy.

The Gilets Jaunes & Emmanuel Macron—a conversation with The Economist’s Sophie Pedder: OECD Podcast

Who are the Gilets Jaunes and what do they want? We talk to Sophie Pedder, who is Paris bureau chief of the Economist and author of Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the quest to reinvent a nation.

Yanis Varoufakis on austerity and the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM): OECD Podcast

One country that symbolised the crisis of the last 10 years was Greece. Its insolvency embarked the country on a long regime of bail-outs and austerity. This August, Greece officially emerged from the crisis, with the OECD forecasting GDP growth again. So, did the austerity work? The former Greek finance minister and co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM) remains unconvinced. Mr Varoufakis was a guest at the OECD’s “10 years after the crisis” conference.